2019 — A Year in Review

2019 took a lot out of me. I would say that overall, the year kind of sucked. I spent a good portion of it depressed to varying degrees, but in the end, we made it all the way through, didn’t we?

My next blog post will be about looking ahead, but I thought it prudent to look back first. I’m making the choice to point out the positive changes here, as it does nothing to dwell on the bad stuff. I’m also going to try to keep it chronological, but there will be some stuff moved around for organization’s sake.

  • Exactly one year ago, my brothers and I embarked on our first long-term D&D campaign: the Knights of Fire, and last Friday was our last session before we put those characters away for a little while to explore other parts of the world we’re creating. I DM’d for eight months straight, and once we tell the second half of this adventure, I plan on seeing it through to the end. I have plans. Plans within plans even.
  • In March, I started tracking my happiness and writing daily notes on what I did and how I feel. As you can imagine, I learned a lot about myself. And I’m expanding my channels of self-diagnosis in the new year because of it. More on that later.
  • I’ve been traveling more this year! In January the siblings and I flew to Chicago and drove back home. That was amazing and awful in all the ways you can imagine. Then, in October, I spent a whole week in the Washington/Oregon area. That in particular changed both short and long term life plans. This year alone, I’ve been to four new major cities.
  • Over the course of this year I wrote a full screenplay, and even gave it a complete pass for a full second draft. I hate it, unfortunately, and it should never see the light of day, but I’m proud it exists at all.
  • The passion project I’ve been working on made some huge bounds in 2019, and we’re continuing to build our world and our backlog of content to show. I’m hoping that we can go public with the project some time this year. Getting it ready for monetization is one of my main goals for 2020.
  • I also finished my last semester of college. I’ve yet to receive my degrees (and part of me suspects they’ll neglect to give them to me for stupid reasons), but I do not plan on continuing school, as I need room to grow and spending my time in school is hindering me at this point. It costs money, is time consuming, and my trajectory doesn’t align with that path.
  • In August, WoW: Classic launched, and over the course of a few months I’ve met some of the most amazing people in that guild, all of whom I am proud to call my friends. I cannot wait for the journeys we’ll go on together.
  • About two weeks ago now, I started wearing contacts. There’s more to this, but for now, suffice to say that it’s a small change that has big implications.
  • Around the same time, I was handed the keys to my first car. It’s an amazing leap forward, as it is probably only the second thing I have ever owned that I can refer to as “exclusively” mine. That said, the car payments are not fun and money is tighter than ever. Let’s hope that changes in the next couple of months.
  • And lastly, but most important by far, is that I found the strength to ask for help on a day I was really struggling. That person doesn’t know what the phone call was really about, and hopefully they never do, but I thank them for their presence all the same.

 

Overall, I spent a lot of 2019 in a depression, and I felt like nobody heard my calls for help. Even the ones that did kept on walking like they didn’t want to be held responsible, and I don’t blame them. For better or for worse, this taught me that nobody can be trusted, and that I can’t rely on anyone to make me feel better when I’m down. I have to do it myself.

Somehow, I’ve been kicking productivity into high gear the last few days of 2019 to prep my 2020. I’m all but making an outline for my plans, but most importantly, I have a checklist. A checklist that I know will kill me inside if I don’t fill in with as many check marks as possible. So that in and of itself should be ample motivation.

Life — 2020 Changes

I’ll probably do a more articulated post along these lines next month, but I’m creating a primordial gameplan for how I’m going to turn my life around next year. I have all the thread, I just need to weave everything together.

Mostly, the idea is I need to spend more time loving and less time dwelling in apathy. This primarily is pointed towards me, but it needs to be projected onto others as well. The less I do things “just because” and more because “I want to”, the better I will feel (I hope).

This comes from two philosophies squished together. One I made up as one of the major themes of the Lisa Stenton screenplay, and another I read online. The online quote could be summarized as follows.

“Stop telling yourself what you should do. Instead tell yourself how you feel when you do something. The word ‘should’ implicates you, doesn’t inspire action, and perpetuates guild. Instead of saying ‘I should go to the gym’, say ‘I like how I feel after I go to the gym’.”

I’ve been using this philosophy in regards to waking up early, and it has helped a lot. The quote that I made up is very similar, but not exactly the same.

When faced with a crossroads, ask yourself what your ideal version of yourself would do in that situation. Not the perfect you that has never struggled or the pure you that can do no wrong. The you that is doing the best they can with the resources they have available. What would they do? Try to do what that ideal you would do, and if you can’t, get as close as possible. The better those strides, the closer you will be to achieving your ideal you.

I’m tired of looking at myself in the mirror or seeing pictures of myself and seeing somebody I don’t like. For the longest time I’ve been playing the game just to get by, and this year, I almost lost everything because of my carelessness.

It’s tough for me, because my ideal Kollin is extroverted. He loves hanging out with people and makes everyone around him hum with excitement. He makes everyone feel loved and respected and never fails to improve somebody’s day. I’ve met people like that, and I want to emulate them. But I can’t. The actual Kollin is so irrevocably introverted that I am often too polite to tell somebody I need to pee if they won’t stop talking.

But I think recognizing the changes I want to be making is the first step to being somebody different. Somebody that I can respect. I may be pretty intuitive and nice, but those aren’t traits I fought for, they just happened. For as great as I thought I was because of them, I no longer feel like I have anything I’ve truly had to work for.

I’ve been trying to embody these thoughts now, but for certain I plan for them to be actionable by the time the new year hits. Because my current biggest fear is falling back into the pit of depression October and November sucked me into. I’m not out of it yet, but I’m no longer digging myself deeper.

Life — Social Gaming Climate

Ever since WoW: Classic launched, I’ve been spending practically all of my free time on it (writing and social life—or lack thereof—notwithstanding). And while I know I made a post about it some time ago, the game has had a lot more time to stabilize since then, and I have more things to say about it.

I was afraid that the nostalgia of socializing with people online and making real friendships would be unattainable in today’s world, both because of how gaming itself has changed and how much social media has grown to dominate society in the last decade. But I could not have been more wrong.

More than I could have imagined, I’m forging real relationships with the people in my guild. Receiving and returning favors, trading things we need, talking about random stuff, or taking pot shots at other people in the guild. Admittedly, I’ve practically learned nothing about their real lives, but the climate in Classic WoW allows for so much more of people’s personalities to show than the last several years of the retail game.

In a way that I have never before experienced, your character has a reputation in the space that they’re in. The people you interact with remember your name, so it pays to be good to others. And since the vast majority have the same mentality, (my guild especially,) social interaction in the game is just so pleasant.

We finished our first Molten Core run today, and while it wasn’t quite as impactful as it could have been, I couldn’t help but think of how many thousands of people had walked through those caves before me. How many inseparable groups of friends. How many memories forged in those lava pits.

And now I’m making memories of my own. Not with inseparable friends, but with people I can’t wait to get to know, for hopefully several months to come.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with the meaninglessness of my existence. The knowledge that if I simply evaporated, life would go on without me, and very few people would be affected, especially in the grand scheme of things.

But when somebody in the guild needs water for their mana, or a portal to Darnassus, I try my best to be there for them when I can. It’s not that I’m eager to help. It’s that I want to be known as and remembered for my willingness to go out of my way to help people. I find that the satisfaction of helping is often its own reward, and Warcraft gives me a great outlet to do that frequently.

I think about the stories I’ve heard of the relationships that have been forged inside World of Warcraft. Especially the stories of people that are gone. Heck, I wrote one of those stories (partially inspired by real events, but quite fictional).

It’s amazing how easily an entire culture was able to be restored inside a fifteen year old game. It really encourages teamwork and friendship in a way that no other MMORPG has compared to, and for that, I want to thank all the people that brought it to life then, and those that resurrected it now. I wish I had been old enough to really enjoy and experience it the first time around, but I’ll take what I can get. In some ways, it’s keeping me together.

Me — Important Dreams

Do you ever have one of those dreams that affects your mood and emotional state when you wake up? I only get them twice a year or so, and for me, they tend to be bad dreams, either because what happened affected me so negatively or because I wanted to go back when I did wake up.

I had one a few days ago that was amazing, like I had found my own little paradise. I won’t go into the details, as a lot of them were very personal, but suffice to say I felt touched. My world and mindset is governed by logic, but I won’t pretend or deny that there are things logic (or our understanding at least) cannot explain, and this was one of them. I woke up missing the dream, but in more ways than one I was more thankful that I had the dream than upset that it was over.

One thing I’ve always been interested in is dream theory and the connection of what you dream about to real life. I’m admittedly skeptical of trying to tie symbols or events to future prophecies, but I think what we dream about does have things to teach us about our psyche in ways that our conscious mind could never put together. I wrote a novella called Dreamscape about people going into others’ dreams to solve their personal problems, and my current D&D character is a Circle of Dreams Druid who taps into that part of me.

I don’t feel I have a whole lot of useful things to add on this subject, though. I think these dreams help inform us what’s truly important to us, whether we realize it or not. If you dream about losing a loved one, or finding true love, or any number of other things, maybe that’s your subconscious mind revealing to you that you’re prioritizing the wrong (or the right) things. My mom once had a dream where I died, and when I woke up and got out of bed, she hugged me as soon as she saw me, and if I remember correctly she might have cried a little bit, too. I remember thinking she was being a little weird, because I had just woken up, but after experiencing a similar dream about somebody else, I totally get where she was coming from.

Any time I wake up having a detailed memory of a dream, especially one like this, I write it down as soon as I wake up. For one, it will obviously allow me to reread it later to experience a lot of those same memories. But more importantly I find that it solidifies a lot of those moments in my head so I don’t have to reread it to relive it. (Now, if this was a bad dream I might think twice about it, but even that has some benefits.) Also, I enjoy looking up the things I saw in dream dictionaries, or asking a friend that has a passion for that sort of thing. It sates some idle curiosities.

Me — Rebuilding Stability

Last week was rough. Without question, it was the hardest set of days to get through in several months, and it rivaled the month-long rut I got caught in in January. I had spent most of this year building myself and being okay with who I am and the position in life I’m in (while acknowledging the steps forward I’m taking), and I was doing great.

I have a daily happiness tracker that I’ve been keeping since March, and on a scale of 1-10, I’m happy to say I’ve had a bell curve peaking at 7. To me, that’s pretty solid. A passing grade, could be better, could be worse. (70% is average because of the American education system, think of that what you will.)

But a combination of things happened last week, and that score plummeted. My weekly average went from 7.07 to 5.82. My mental health has obviously taken a huge hit, and I’m afraid it’s going to take me quite a few months to build it back up to where it was.

It’s a shame, because I was doing so well. I was writing consistently, doing weekly prep for my D&D campaign, working full time, etc. I was even making efforts to be more social and getting up at 5am just to get even more work done.

Now I’m back to the rut of going to bed at midnight, struggling to get up for work, and then not having the willpower to do anything when I get home at 5-6. That’s primarily why the blog has been struggling the past few weeks. Sometimes I’ll forget to write a post entirely, but other times I’ll just put it off indefinitely (like last Saturday).

I know what I need, and I’m taking steps towards it. Different steps I’ve never taken to fix my problems, which I feel is a good sign. The problem is to muster the willpower to take those steps when every free moment I have makes me want to just play games mindlessly the rest of the night. But I know this will only perpetuate the problem.

What I don’t want to do is turn the blog into a mindless vomit of words of me complaining about my problems. That’s part of the reason why I’m being vague here. The primary purpose of this blog is and has always been simply to force myself to write more about my thoughts and experiences. That way I can be more comfortable with words while also allowing me to easily look at my past and reflect on who I once was, and I can’t do that if I never include anything personal here.

I know that my life will never be 10/10 every day, but I’m working towards increasing my weekly averages. Right now the goal is to get back up to 7, which I imagine will take a while, and then after that maybe try pushing it to 7.5 or even 8?

I want to live life to the fullest. The current me is not capable of really enjoying it, but he’s doing what he can to allow future me to do so.

Me — Time Budgeting

Lately I’ve been having a really hard time with… well, time. There’s been so much that I need to get done at work and at home, and I feel as though the amount of time I have to do it is getting smaller and smaller while the list of things is getting bigger. Part of the problem is that since I don’t have time to do weekly stuff, it keeps piling up, and another part of the problem is that I’m the only person filling in my position at work as of today. And not only that, the person that left was full time, and because of my school semester I still work part time. So what 1.5 full time employees were already struggling to carry is now being handled by 0.5 employees, which is me.

I do not know how I managed to wake up consistently at 5am last semester and get work done then. That was a magical time—a time I desperately need to emulate and am failing miserably at by struggling to get up at 7 every morning. (Which, back then, was my ‘sleep in’ day.)

What I have noticed is that it is nearly impossible to get real work done at my desk. I mean, why would I do anything when video games are right there and there’s no consequence to doing that instead of writing? (Beyond the mental consequence, that is.) That said, today I went straight to Starbucks after work, even though I was super tired from a long day, and pulled out my laptop to write. I will say, though I only stayed 2 hours and didn’t get nearly as much done as I’d have liked, I did get stuff done, so for that I am happy. I’ll try to do this more in the future.

I also think that since I have such a big backlog of work that needs to be done, there’s always a psychological strain on getting work done, so stress is a constant in my life right now. I imagine it would be a lot easier to get stuff done if I wasn’t so intimidated by the sheer amount of things that need to be done.

The thing that probably frustrates me most about situations like this is that while I know the answer is simple, it isn’t very clear. Do I need to schedule a day where I just kick down the whole to-do list? Would I even use that day properly or would I waste it and feel terrible as a result? Do I go to bed at 9pm and set up alarms that force me to get out of bed in the hopes that I can resume my once-great schedule? Do I just need to permanently trim my to-do list and forgive myself for doing so? Would the lessened burden fix things?

Part of me is thinking “just hold out for the summer, you’ll have more free time!” but I know that isn’t true. In fact, I’ll probably have less, because I’ll be working full time once school is out of the way, and I’ve half-committed to finishing the full-length play I started a few months ago, so the side projects I’m doing now will end up being even lower of a priority if I can’t find a way to up my creativity regarding personal projects.

Here’s hoping that regularly going to Starbucks will be worth my time (and the money my self-imposed patronage would cost).

Anyway’s that’s it for today’s useless ramble. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Life — Learning From the Fire

This sort of thing doesn’t seem to happen often. A lot of people I know are talking about how tragic the fire is and how life shouldn’t be this way, but I think it’s worth looking at things in its opposite.

It’s much easier to remember history by its tragedies rather than the miracles (you can point to my own blog as an example of this: I never once mentioned Katie Bouman’s team that created the black hole picture!), but by the look of things, the world used to be much worse. Sure, the world could stand to be a lot better, but let’s look at things in a positive light today. 100 years ago we were just getting out of one of the worst wars humanity had ever known, and was just a few steps away from entering one that would rival it.

Not too long ago, monuments and landmarks were being destroyed left and right, not to mention the millions of lives that were suddenly lost.

When a single building being on fire is international news, as important as that building may be, we have reason to be thankful for the relative peacefulness our modern day has provided us.

Beyond this, death (as the case may be), is a natural part of life. All things must end, and if the Notre Dame Cathedral is left in a state where it can’t be restored (which would honestly surprise me), then that doesn’t diminish the fact that there is still an endless supply of art, history, and culture in Paris alone.

People have short memories, and I think it’s in events like this that remind us of the pieces of culture that we still have, right next door. You never know if it’s going to be there tomorrow, because something as crazy could happen there, too.

Is it tragic? Yes, of course. But as far as I know nobody was injured, and with today’s technology the building could probably be rebuilt better than it was yesterday in less than a decade.

It astounds me a bit that some people seem to view events like this exactly the same way as terrorist attacks. You see the same things being spouted off: “Our hearts are breaking today in light of recent events that took place this morning/afternoon/evening. Tragedies like this…” and so on. I think treating the destruction of a monument the same way as the deaths of hundreds of people in the same way is incredibly insulting, frankly. And yet, which will history remember more clearly? Hard to say, though it does seem that this sort of freak accident is far more rare than terrorist attacks, unfortunately.

I think days like today are best used reflecting on the past, looking forward to the future, and pressing onward to right wrongs (intentional or not) without taking more time than we need to mourn over what was lost.

One thing I feel modern society has gotten really bad at is learning from mistakes and correcting them. Let the cathedral’s fire (and the subsequent blow against European past and culture) be your excuse to go to your local museums or exhibits. Go explore culture you otherwise would not have! Life goes on.